The Best Gift

My youngest grandson turned four years old this week.  Before opening his gifts there was much curiosity about what was inside each one.  If he had not been such a busy four year old he would probably have guessed what was inside by simply listening to all the clues that were floating around among the grown-ups.

The time of year is fast approaching when many of us wrap up surprises and place them under a Christmas tree to be unwrapped by family and friends.  Aren’t you a little curious about what is inside that package with your name on it?

God so loved the world that he gave us the gift of his Son.  As I was looking over the lesson Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus I was reminded once again about the number of clues God gave about the coming of the Messiah.

I love talking to children about this!

 

God Kept His Promises!

God sent all of these messages before Jesus was even born. God promised over and over that he would send Jesus. And guess what.

  • Jesus was Abram’s great, great, great…..grandson-just like God had promised.
  • Jesus was a special child born to a special mother. Just like God told Isaiah.
  • Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem. Just like God told Micah.
  • Mary had a baby and named him Jesus. Just like the angel said.
  • Joseph married Mary and took care of Jesus. Just like the angel told him to.

For help teaching this lesson and links to download the pictures click here.

 

 

Oh, Baby!

my-friend-jesus

After a long delay between lessons the “My Friend Jesus” series for Babies and Toddlers is now complete.  Hopefully, it will help parents and teachers share the story of Jesus with little ones.

In this series infants and toddlers are introduced to Jesus and relate to him through various common experiences of childhood (celebration, helping, community, worship and growth). Role-play and sensory activities are used to express a growing relationship and friendship with him.

 

The first breath Jesus took on this earth was as a fragile newborn infant. The One who would save the world had to have his nappies/diapers changed. He learned to feed himself, crawl and walk. He experienced the human senses of taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell.

Infants and Toddlers can know that Jesus is special, experience affinity with Jesus through role-play and sensory activities.  They can learn practices that express friendship, affection, obedience, respect and worship.

 

Lessons in this Series:

1. Cherished Baby
Expressing love through protection and tender care.

2. Time to Celebrate
The joy of giving, receiving and celebrating.

3. Helper at Home
Being part of a family by sharing responsibilities at home.

4. Worship and Praise
Being part of a community of worshipers.

5. Growing and Learning
The satisfaction of maturing and moving forward.

6. My Friend, Jesus
Comfort, love and affection in a relationship with Jesus.

my-friend-jesus

 

Download the complete set here.

Go to the “My Friend Jesus page on this website.

 

 

Additional Infant and Toddler Lessons

god-created    god-is-with-me

 

 

Mustard Seeds and Matryoshka Dolls

Teaching Jesus’ parables to three and four year olds is challenging.  Pre-schoolers struggle understanding abstract concepts.  The figurative nature of the parables will largely pass them by because they usually think in more literal terms.

This morning the class I was teaching tackled the Parable of the Mustard Seed.  Jesus told a story about a farmer planting a tiny little seed.  The seed sprouted and grew into the tallest of trees.

We began the class by sorting seeds.  The children pulled the tiny mustard seeds from the pile and we marveled that such a tiny seed could grow into a large tree.

The three little boys I was teaching are also very small.  They dream of the day when they can be big and strong like their dads.  Great men begin as little boys.

Sometimes hands-on activities are helpful in helping pre-schoolers understand concepts.  I chose a couple of these to stress the point about growth.

  • First, I placed a tiny little paper circle on the table. Then, one at a time, I revealed a set of circles of ever increasing size. The children loved stretching their vocabulary to describe the sizes.  Tiny, little, small, medium, bigger, enormous, giant and finally, super super huge.
  • Secondly, I was able to make use of some Matryoshka (nesting) dolls that I had on hand.  Seeing the sizes displayed in doll form helped the children relate to how they themselves are in the process of growing.

All in all it was a great class.

Sometimes my efforts in teaching seem extremely small.  What difference will my teaching make in the bigger picture?  This parable reminds me that God does great things from small beginnings.

The Puzzling Attraction of Puzzles

Puzzling_Mitch_5294339220_687c49b375_b

Disorder and exposed edges cause us to be tense and unsettled.  We fervently scan for those straight edges to establish a boundary and begin to sort things out.  We aren’t satisfied until everything is in its proper place and the picture is complete.

It is no wonder we say we “work” puzzles.  The process doesn’t seem like “play” at all.

It is work.  Yet, even when there is no outside competition involved, we find pleasure in that work.  It is a quest for the solution.  A desire to find the answer to the problem.  Figuring out how the pieces fit together.  Consciously or not, all of us are looking for answers.  God, in his wisdom has created us curious and hungry to ‘know’.  It sometimes feels like very hard work and yet we still seek.

As teachers we can walk alongside children and guide them in the important Christian-life-skill of looking for answers and seeking truth.  Throughout their lives truth will always be found in God.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.  Psalm 63:1, NIV

A good lesson plan for Bible Class should include challenging and pleasurable learning  activities that motivate children to think.

Challenges don’t have to be complicated.  One simple activity is an adaptation of jig-saw puzzles.  Click here for written instructions and links to good online teaching pictures you can use.

Or watch this 2 minute training video below.

May God bless you as you help children seek answers.

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Photo Credit (top of page): “Puzzling” by Mitch used through Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

 

What Bothers Jesus?

2_Jesus Blesses Children

What bothers Jesus?  His earliest disciples thought they knew.

“Some people brought their children to Jesus so that he could bless them by placing his hands on them. But his disciples told the people to stop bothering him.

When Jesus saw this, he became angry and said, “Let the children come to me! Don’t try to stop them. People who are like these little children belong to the kingdom of God. I promise you that you cannot get into God’s kingdom, unless you accept it the way a child does.”

Then Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them by placing his hands on them.”
Mark 10:13-16 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

The disciples thought that these children would bother Jesus but it seems very clear that the disciples themselves, the adults in this situation, were the real bother. In fact, their judgement on children led to one of the few times in Scripture when Jesus was recorded as being angry. The New International Version uses the word “indignant”.

So why is Jesus not bothered by children? After all, children are wiggly and curious and lacking in inhibition. If we are honest, we have to say they are often inconvenient to have around. They slow us down, exhaust us and generally cause havoc in what we like to call our “perfectly organised lives”.

Children force us to reorganise our priorities. Schedules are worked around nap times and curfews. Holidays are planned based on how “child friendly” the activities and accommodations are. Having a couple of children enrolled in sporting activities or music lessons means a couple’s once-spontaneous social life becomes a series of intricately planned and often postponed events.

And if that was not enough, they don’t seem to really care when we are doing the “important stuff” at church. They are obviously not impressed by long sermons or deep discussions about spiritual matters. They don’t seem to worry about the things we worry about. They choose action over contemplation almost every time.

If children are such a bother then why was Jesus indignant that the disciples would turn them away? Jesus points out that the disciples were turning away the very examples they needed to learn how to enter the kingdom of God. Ultimately, the disciples were the ones missing out.

Children in our communities, families and churches inspire us to act more like adults than we sometimes feel like acting. The inconvenience they bring produces patience. Examining priorities helps us maintain focus. And practising an active faith makes us useful. To keep children safe we plan better. To secure their future we work harder. To help them engage we adapt and change.

Most of all, like the disciples, we adults are sometimes satisfied with walking alongside and talking about Jesus. Children on the other hand want to touch him and be embraced by him.

May we learn from the example of the young ones among us. This does not bother him at all.

Click here for for help in teaching the Bible lesson: Jesus Blesses the Children.

This article by Mary Nelson was first published in “The Edifier” Belmore Church of Christ, Melbourne, Australia on 11 October 2015